Wines for Grilling: What to Drink with Ribs, Burgers and More

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Photograph: TheBusyBrain

Grab your charcoal and your corkscrew, grilling season has arrived, and we asked two wine and/or grilling experts to recommend what to pair with various grilled goodies. (Yes, vegetarians, we've got you covered too!) Our panel included Elizabeth Karmel, author of St. Francis Girls' Guide to Grilling and executive chef of our go-to Manhattan barbecue restaurant Hill Country , and Carolyn Evans Hammond, wine critic and author of Good Better Best Wines. Here's what they had to say:

Wines for Ribs and Other Grilled Meats

Rich, fruity, rounded red Zinfandel. You need a wine that's sturdy enough and has enough structure to stand up to these really assertive foods. Merlot, so spicy and fruit-forward and rich, is also good with ribs and other grilled meats. I think a Cabernet is also a slam-dunk for a rib or a chop. But everyone knows it's a slam dunk. So I'm trying to get people to go for the old-time Zinfandel. —Elizabeth Karmel

Barbecue requires full-fruited wines that stands up to the charred flavors of grilled foods. And, since we're dealing with warm weather, the wines need bright acidity to keep guests feeling refreshed after each sip. Classic grilling reds include Malbec, Shiraz, Syrah, and Zinfandel—a brawny bunch. All of these wines are saturated with dark fruit flavors that marry beautifully with smoky, caramelized meat juices caught in grill marks. —Carolyn Evans Hammond

Wines for Burgers, Brats, or Franks

They're great with a Zinfandel and can stand up to a Cab. A Malbec would also work. That said, sparkling wine or Champagne is my favorite thing with grilled sausages, brats, that kind of thing. Most of the time people drink beer with brats. In the Midwest, they even grill brats, then put them in beer! But sparking wine would be a little more sophisticated. Or a lighter red would be great, if it has a lot of flavor to it, like a Zin. —Elizabeth Karmel

Bold new world wines such as Californian Cabernet, Argentinean Malbec, and Aussie Shiraz work with flavor-blasted fare such as burgers, brats or franks. Another great option for this casual, often outdoor fare is something crisp and quenching like Chianti or Pinot Noir, notorious for a nice seam of palate-cleansing acidity. One popular example would be Mark West Pinot Noir 2007, Sonoma County, California, USA ($11) —Carolyn Evans Hammond

Wines for Grilled Vegetables

Chardonnay is fantastic. I call the St. Francis Chardonnay the "white wine for red wine drinkers." not too oaky, balanced, can stand up to grilled food, particularly grilled veggies. I also like a Sauvignon Blanc - crisp, tropical, a nice white wine. —Elizabeth Karmel

If serving grilled vegetables as an accompaniment, match the wine to the meat, fish or poultry part of the meal. But if the vegetables are served solo, pair them with a dry but fruity rosé. The hint of red fruit will match the grill marks without overpowering the more delicate flavors of the veggies. —Carolyn Evans Hammond

About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.

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